Ryan Fox says playing Rory McIlroy for the Race to Dubai title at the Earth Course this week is a “surreal” prospect.
The New Zealander trails the world No 1 by just 128 points in the rankings, heading into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Despite each being long-term fixtures on tour, the two players have rarely crossed paths, and Fox accepted his Thursday playing partner at Jumeirah Golf Estates is the favourite.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Fox, who has had first, second and fourth-place finishes in the past six weeks on tour.
“He is the best player in the world, and to play with the No 1 is always special.
“I've heard from plenty of guys on tour that he's a great guy. I just hope he doesn't bring the rugby up too much [Ireland beat New Zealand in a Test series recently] in the first couple of holes.”
Even though McIlroy is one of the most recognisable figures in world sport, Fox is unlikely to be phased by his brush with celebrity.
The 35-year-old has lived close enough to stardom all his life, as the son of Grant Fox, the New Zealand rugby great.
He said he has not sought out any tips from his father on how to cope with pressure ahead of this week, but feels he is reaping the benefit of his influence earlier in his career.
“I think he spent two or three years pretty much caddying for me in every amateur event, even in the States and in Australia,” Fox said.
“I learned a lot from him in that regard. I feel like goal kicking was very similar to golf.
“That ball doesn't move; you've got far too much time to think about it, and he was really good in those moments.
“It felt like I had a sports [psychologist] in my corner early on.”